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Yellow Fever Outbreak: Health Officials Fear Outbreak Spreading From Congo To Europe And America

Update Date: Aug 18, 2016 03:04 PM EDT
Gold Rush Fuels DR Congo Crisis
Men sift through buckets of dirt while looking for gold at an abandoned industrial mine March 28, 2006 in Mongbwalu, Congo. Thousands of Congolese scrape together meagre livings from mining. Gold and other mineral deposits, which are numerous in the volatile north-east of the country, have become a catalyst to much of the conflict in Congo. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country that loses an estimated 1,400 people per day due to war since 1998, is struggling to hold Presidential elections this summer. The volatile East of the country, which is situated hundreds of miles from the capital Kinshasa, has been the focal point of continued violence. Numerous militias and warlords have vied for control of the mineral rich eastern Congo for decades, creating instability and continued bloodshed. (Photo : Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A fatal outbreak of yellow fever in Congo might spread to Europe and America in the absence of a newly launched emergency vaccination, health officials mentioned on Wednesday.

The outbreak, which has already killed more than 500 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo,  is the biggest reported one in more than 30 years, reported New York Daily News.

Notably, there is no known cure for this mosquito-spread virus of yellow fever. Once infected, patients suffer from fever, along with muscle pain for a few days. The fatal stage includes symptoms like possible bleeding from the eyes, ears, and nose, jaundice and organ failure.

In order to combat the epidemic, aid groups will be targeting 10.5 million people in the next 10 days, starting  with Congo's capital Kinhasa, the epicenter of the outbreak. However, due to insufficient supply of vaccines, the focus groups have been forced to use one - fifth of the standard dose, which will be effective for only a year.

"Protecting as many people as possible is at the heart of this strategy. With a limited supply, we need to use these vaccines very carefully," said William Perea, WHO's Coordinator for the Control of Epidemic Diseases Unit.

Save The Children, which is sending a rapid reaction unit to support vaccinations in Congo, warned the epidemic could soon spread to the Americas, Asia and Europe and other cities in Africa.

"There is no known cure for yellow fever and it could go global," said Heather Kerr, Save the Children's country director for Congo.

The outbreak has already spread to China,  as it has been carried by workers returning from Angola. However, WHO Spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic is confident that the outbreak can be contained.

"The WHO Emergency Committee will reconvene in coming weeks [and] will re-evaluate the situation but we think that the outbreak is manageable if we can protect enough people with the vaccine," he told reporters in Geneva, on Tuesday.



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